Sometimes It's Not WHAT You Learn, But HOW You Learn That Counts
Understand the process of learning and increase your chances of success with weight loss, strength, and health
Some things can be explained other things need to be experienced.
Figuring out health, fitness, and wellness, and HOW to make it work for you, most definitely falls in the latter the category.
No matter how many concepts and strategies are explained to you, in the end, this is a journey that requires you to roll around in the mud a bit.
For most of us it's not likely that we have a gap in knowledge (thank you Google), but moreso it's that we cannot seem to apply what we know long enough to see a positive result.
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These days it's as simple as doing a quick search to learn a number of ways you can accomplish a something.
Rarely is it that we don't know WHAT to do. A lack of information is not usually the problem
For example, weight loss, on a fundamental level, is not a hard concept to understand.
Consume less calories than you expend; thereby creating a caloric deficit, and presto chango! Pounds start to shed. Sure, it's more like they trickle off little by little, but nonetheless weight loss occurs.
So you watch your portions here, set some temporary food rules there, exercise a bit more here, take a few walks there...you start to get the picture.
But then life starts to happen.
You forget about portion controlling, you start to break a few food rules a little too often, and you stop exercising...starting to sound familiar?
This about the time when most of us give up. That is, until we want to try the newest fad diet or workout program making it's way through the interwebs, and then eventually onto your Facebook feed.
So how do we break this cycle?
Learning HOW to Learn Better
Following a diet or a training program is a great. When adhered to as directed by the professional (hopefully) that designed it, you will almost assuredly see SOME kind of result.
Now, putting aside the fact that following a program or diet to the "T" is nearly impossible, the problem with continuing down a path of purchasing "done for you" diet plans and training regiments is that you begin to rely too heavily on the answers being given to you.
In otherwords, you miss out on the piece of the puzzle that ultimately leads to sustainability, having to apply critical thinking.
This reminds me of when I was younger and I would ask my mom how to spell a word, but instead of telling me the answer, she would ask me...
"Do you know how to use the dictionary?"
Point taken...thanks Mom.
You see learning follows a predictable path.
Now when it comes to following diets and workout programs, most of us never make it past the first level of learning.
We are told what to do, we do our best to remember what to do, and then we act accordiningly.
It's a type of rote memorization.
If we are lucky enough, or if have the awareness to, some of us will make it to level two and begin to understand what is happening.
We begin to piece together WHY a particular protocol is working. What principles are being applied here? And by what methods are they applying them?
Now to move from level one to level two takes some focused reflection and investigation.
Some concepts will be easier to understand than others.
And if you are doing this on your own, it may take some time and energy to fully grasp the myriad of factors that contribute to long term change.
But reflection and introspection is a key component to the progression of learning.
It is how you can move from level two to the higher levels of acquired skill and knowledge
By engaging with the process in such a way that enables to you apply, anaylyze, and evaluate different strategies based on your unique experiences (i.e. schedule, priorities, personality, etc.), you begin the process of creation.
You begin to create a process that is uniquely your own and works for you.
But not only do you create a process that works for you, you know HOW to create a process that works for you. So in the event that your circumstances change (which they will ), you can you use the knowledge and skills you have acquired to create a NEW process.
And this is the key to long term success. Your ability to adapt.
Now that we have some idea of the learning process and how we can advance our level of skill and knowledge. Let's look at a few key ideas that you can use to increase your chances of success with weight loss, strength, and health.
Learning For Weight Loss, Strength, & Health
Set up Mini Experiments
If you ever tried a diet, training program, or some other thing in effort to lose weight, get stronger, or improve your health, you have taken the first step in implementing a mini experiment.
Mini experiments are time bound experiments that allow you try different strategies to see how and/or if they work for you.
The step you probably missed is asking why it seems to be working, or why it seems not to be working.
Asking questions such as:
- How is it manipulating my energy balance?
- What do I like about this strategy?
- What don't I like about this strategy?
- Why has it proven to be effective at this time in my life?
- What other factors have I changed while implementing this strategy?
- When is this strategy useful vs. not useful?
- How can it be modified to suit my lifestyle?
Experiments involve gathering some kind of feedback in regards to effectiveness. Scheduling regular intervals to review your results, as well as the factors that contributed to them is a the second part of implementing mini experiments.
Mini experiements are an excellent tool because they are only implemented for a limited time. This tends to take the psychological burden off of people, because they don't feel as if the changes they are making HAVE to last forever. Which tends to make things easier for people to handle.
I usually reccommend mini experiments lasting anywhere from 1 week to 1 month depending on the type of strategy being implemented.
It is also useful to have an idea of what you are hoping to discover by taking part in a mini experiment.
For example a mini experiment such as "no soda for 30 days"
Maybe you think you drink too much soda and it contributes too many empty calories to your daily intake. And by reducing the amount of soda you drink you can potentially lose some weight due to a reduction in calories.
Try this for 30 days and see what happens.
Start your observation/reflective process by asking such questions:
- What makes this task challenging?
- What other behaviors do you end up changing by implementing this simple rule?
- What do you end up drinking instead and why?
- What factors contribute to you being unable to complete the target task?
- Are there ways to mitigate these factors?
- How many calories do I actually end up limiting?
You can make these mini experiments as detailed as you would like.
The more you are able to glean from your experiments the better off you are in developing strategies and techniques that can serve you in the future.
Learn to Accommodate Opinions without Accepting Them
The fitness industry, like a lot industries, is not in short supply of gurus, experts, and charlatans. So keeping an open mind, while also maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism is a good practice.
Everyone has an idea of how things should be done.
But most of the time they follow up that statement with an "order now" button, or sales squeeze page.
Through your process of experimentation you will come to develop your own filter of sorts. You will start to learn which types of strategies work best for you, and during which times in your life.
Keeping an open mind will allow you to entertain new perspectives, that may help you grasp concepts that were previously confusing.
Sometimes we just need to hear things a certain way before it makes sense to us. So listen to podcasts, watch videos, read articles, books, etc.
Just remember that EVERYONE has a bias, and they are speaking from a very specific point of view.
In other words, don't be so quick to drink the cool aid.
Have Some Compassion
Lastly, always remember to have compassion for yourself.
Remember that this is a lifelong process.
You will never stop growing, and learning, because if you did that probably means your dead.
So make sure to cut yourself some slack when times get tough, because they will get tough.
Perfection is not the goal, and most times the goal is not even the goal.
Goals, visions, dreams...these are all just concepts that give us some semblance of where to aim our energy.
After that it may be better to focus on the tasks at hand, and visit your goals, dreams, etc. every now and then as a means to recalibrate your compass.